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I’m Not A Gamer

Recently while listening to Happy Jacks (S8E4 to be precise) the term “gamer” was brought up. It stirred some thoughts I’ve been feeling about that particular word for a few years now. I think it’s time for it to go.

When you say you’re a gamer in this day and age, most people think you play video games. Thanks to the rise of online multiplayer games, they also think you’re a racist homophobe with nothing better to do with your time. I abhor the term gamer because of this and I never use it in reference to myself. You want to know what it’s like to deal with a “gamer”? Go play a competitive multiplayer game online. When I play online with people I don’t know, I no longer wear my headphones because I got tired of being called “faggot” and “cocksucker” if I happened to win the match. On Xbox Live, people even take the time to type up a message and send it over. What rational person does that? Over a game?

As it relates to RPGs, if you say you’re a gamer, people think Magic or D&D. I get tired of saying gamer as it relates to the RPG hobby so I tell people I play “tabletop games, like Dungeons and Dragons, but less nerdy.” I always throw that last part in there, as if pretending to be a 1920s Private Investigator while playing Call of Cthulhu is somehow less nerdy than pretending to be a Monk in Forgotten Realms. It’s not, and I know it’s not, but even using gamer as it relates to RPGs has a negative connotation outside of the hobby. And, frankly, I don’t really consider it nerdy. I consider it gaming. But people outside of our hobby don’t see it that way.

And why is that? Hysteria and less than ethical media for the most part is my guess. The big, but false Satanic scare back in the day and all the misinformation that went along with it that got reported as fact. And as another HJ host, Tyler, has said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “A hobby is judged by the worst examples it has to offer”. I believe that to be true. People usually believe the worst because that is normally all they are presented and encouraged to make a judgement on. Which is bullshit. As if a hobby that harms absolutely no one and gives joy to millions of people is something to be derided and ashamed of.

I don’t know what the new term should be, but I am ready to retire the word gamer. It carries too much negativity with it and it is saddled unfairly by the actions of a few. We’re all storytellers, it’s all interactive fiction, but I don’t know what one good word sums that up.


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Living in his secluded mansion off the coast of Iowa, JimTo often spends evenings reading, role playing, and writing for DoucheyDM. His best qualities are being loud, rude, and obnoxious, but for some reason, people still love him.

Filed under: Misc

11 Responses to "I’m Not A Gamer"

  1. blazfeemNo Gravatar says:

    Man but that resonates with me. I have started using “tabletop gamer” instead but it still invites clarifying questions. My usual followup is “like d&d but better”…

    1. JimToNo Gravatar says:

      It’s the follow questions that get me. It sucks I feel there is a need to somehow justify it when none should be needed.

  2. shortymonsterNo Gravatar says:

    I sometimes go the reverse, ‘I’m a gamer, like D&D but more so’. D&D is a big part of the hobby, denying that is foolish just because of how much it has seeped into popular culture in a way that games like Runequest never have. But i refuse to let people think that that’s there is to the hobby. So yeah, I’m a gamer, but more than that too.

    Slightly more eloquent thoughts may be found here.

  3. JoeGunNo Gravatar says:

    I agree when I hear gamer, I think of a video gamer. For me I simply say I play Savage Worlds or Pen&Paper RPGs( I never refer to it as “like D&D” because we all know it really isn’t 🙂 ). I’ve also been known to call it playing “dice” as that is how I explained it to my 3 year old when I first started him with Savage Worlds. I think I prefer Pen&Paper RPGs over Tabletop gamer, because for the most part, my group never played at a table. We usually sat around the living room tossing dice on our char sheets or in our Dice tower we made in wood shop.

  4. MookNo Gravatar says:

    The most common question I get from people if I say, “I’m a gamer” is “Oh, what kind of games do you like?” To this I answer GURPS, WoW, BF3, or Cards Against Humanity (or all of the above), depending on my ‘read’ of who I’m speaking to. It seems rare to encounter “gamer” as video games only in the Really Real World, I experience that as more of an online thing.

    It is, however, entirely possible I’m out of step with the wider world!

  5. MarkNo Gravatar says:

    In Latin America the term ‘roleros’ is bandied about, which derives from cognates of role, not roll, but in English it makes for a nice pun. ‘Roller’ might be a good substitute for ‘gamer’ as gamer is unnecessarily vague as well as having negative and predominantly video game connotations. I eschew the term ‘tabletop games’ – in my mind that connotes things like Warhammer 40K and HeroClix. I even try to spell out role-playing game and avoid the initialism RPG now because that brings up Final Fantasy and its ilk more than D&D and its successors. Roller is a good slang term for the interactive storytelling that we do because the vast majority of our games are defined by their dice – it’s the icon (or dare I say fetish in the mystical sense cf. fetishism) with which both insiders and outsiders associate our brand of games. It effectively excludes video games, even video RPGs, and collectible card games without being cumbersome.

  6. Andreas DavourNo Gravatar says:


    Tabletop gamer makes everyone I’ve encountered think of smelly kids playing with lead figures. More specifically figures with way to big shoulder pads (and small dicks) and guns so big it’s silly.

  7. tentagilNo Gravatar says:

    I am a gamer, I will always be a gamer, because that term encompasses my love of gaming. Be it tabletop RPG, video game, card games, board games, etc. I am a gamer.

    I suppose I’ve never seen the stigma you seem to attach to the term. I’ve never had an issue telling people about the games I love, and when I start talking about a good game, regardless of the media its in, I tend to get passionate about it. At worst I’ve been called a geek (another term I embrace), but never has anyone accused me of being racist or a satanist, or any thing else beyond a geek or a nerd.

    The last attacks on RPGs in general stopped in the late 80s or early 90s. Its been 20 years since the mainstream media gave a damn about D&D or any other RPG. Most people in their twenties, and probably even alot in their 30s are to young to remember it ever happened and likely wouldn’t care even if they did.

    On the other hand you seem to be feeding into the current propaganda against video games in which everyone who plays them are racist violent sociopaths with nothing better to do but sit in their mother’s basement rolling dice… Wait, that was another generations backwards bigotry wasn’t it. Same shit, different generation. Before RPGs it was Rock and Roll.

    Trying to come up with some new term is pointless because the only ones who will use it are those already in the club, it won’t change public perception because that has nothing to do with the terms that are used. I say ignore the idiots, do what you love, and don’t worry about pointless semantics.

  8. DaemonNo Gravatar says:

    This isn’t an intentional troll, but I can see it might be perceived as such, so if you’re not in the mood for someone disagreeing skip to the next comment.

    What a bunch of whining about nothing. Assuming that the points made about the online video-gamers are reasonable and once again not just derived from a small number of people misrepresenting the larger group (good points there, tentagil), people who play pen-and-paper roleplaying games aren’t as a whole a shining beacon of angelic perfection. I could happily go on about the socially awkward and unhygienic people every single one of us knows in the hobby, but I can make my point with examples everyone who has read thus far is likely to be familiar with.

    Listening to the podcast (which I’m not attacking directly), we hear unnecessary and forced swearing, continual and even commented upon burps, and generally an environment that celebrates whoever is speaking loudest. Don’t misunderstand me, that’s fine if that’s who you are, and keep it up if you find those around you respond well to this sort of behaviour; I can’t see why you wouldn’t, anyway. But to outsiders, does this really seem all that different from the focused upon behaviour we’re being associated with by being called “gamers”?

    Look a few posts up. We’ve got Andreas Davour commenting on penis sizes. That’s great. How many of you are proud of being associated with that?

    And all this “D&D but not as bad” is elitist, and absolutely unnecessary. Really. Explain to me, someone quite familiar with what’s around in the pen-and-paper market for the last few decades what exactly is so very different with what else is out there to D&D.

    For the record, I’m very much a roleplayer — a term I’ve been happily using for a long time — and I’ve played at tables, sitting around on sofas, in a bus-stop; I’ve played D&D, but not much, and I really don’t like being associated with racists or homophobes much either. But I wish that when I look to the other people I know in the hobby that I could say they’re that much better, that much more tolerant and socially able. Because, in truth, when I start counting off the players I know on my fingers, I don’t get to the end of a hand before I think of someone that gives the hobby a bad name. Repeat, ad nauseum.

    1. JimToNo Gravatar says:

      “This isn’t an intentional troll, but I can see it might be perceived as such, so if you’re not in the mood for someone disagreeing skip to the next comment.”

      All opinions are welcome as long as they are not personal attacks. Feel free to agree/disagree as much as you want. 🙂

      I was well-aware this post would get some strong reactions as opinions on this subject are divided and debated in my own groups.

      I don’t actually think a new term will ever come about, but the idea of the post is to encourage discussion, which, between this site, reddit comments, twitter posts, texts from friends, etc… it certainly has. And much like my own groups, it’s roughly 60/40 even on who disagrees/agrees with my view. (60 being ‘disagree’ in case that wasn’t clear)

      And that is fine and to be expected. Most folks don’t agree on all things at all times. My “Why I Play The Powerless post, I’d guess roughly 90% of the people who mentioned it to me agreed with what I had said in that one. They just didn’t this time. Frankly, I’m just happy they are reading and felt strongly enough to present an opinion.

      Thanks for reading!

  9. BenNo Gravatar says:

    Daemon used the word ‘roleplayer’ that I used my entire role play gaming ‘career’ – I’ve never used the word ‘gamer.’ I think people use a word they are comfortable with, grew up with, or were initially introduced to in the first place.
    Besides, using the word ‘gamer’ gives you the opportunity to talk with someone about your favourite past-time and then introduce them to role playing, its plot twists, adventure, danger, success, failure and most important of all: social enjoyment?

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